Posts Tagged ‘illinois

16
Oct
11

Race Report: 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon (Part 3)

In part 1 of my writeup of the Chicago Marathon I detailed what happened before the marathon. In part 2 I covered everything up to about mile 16 — also known as the fun part of the race. Part 3, this part, covers what went so terribly wrong.

Mile 23 of the Chicago Marathon. I'm Not Looking so Happy.

Mile 23 of the Chicago Marathon. I'm Not Looking so Happy.

2011 Chicago Marathon Runkeeper Splits

2011 Chicago Marathon Runkeeper Splits

Shortly after mile 16 I started to feel some burning in my chest. I knew this was not a good sign and recognized it from previous marathons. I knew that the hiccups were coming, and when the hiccups come then often times vomit isn’t far behind.

When I get the hiccups during a marathon they’re progressive. When they start out I can run for short periods. By the end of a race I just want to stop and puke all over the place. This really wasn’t any different. By mile 18 I was struggling to run more than 2 minutes at a time without feeling like I was going to puke. By mile 23 when I saw Kristina around Illinois Tech, our undergrad alma mater I could barely run at all. Luckily, I just happened to have a little bit left in me when I saw Kristina.

It was now 3:37 into the race and I had 3.2 miles left. I had resolved that I wasn’t going to make it under 4 hours. Maybe I could still beat 4:07 if I could run the whole way. However, that wasn’t going happen. The hiccups were become more profound and were now hitting while I was walking. It felt like my entire throat was burning. What has been a great race had gone horribly wrong.

I ended up walking almost the entirety of the next 3.2 miles. I was crushed. Somehow I managed to summon enough strength to ignore my overarching desire to vomit and run the last 200m to the finish line. After a 1:50:13 first half I finished the marathon in 4:20:16. Runkeeper worked okay, but because part of the beginning of the race is on the lower level of streets in Chicago, it lost GPS and said I ran about 28 miles. In reality I probably ran about 27 miles. Any way you slice it, it was a long day.

When I look back it I had three goals for the race:

  1. Run under a 3:45
  2. Run under a 4:00
  3. Not puke, not pee my pants, not poop my pants

Framed through that lens I suppose I didn’t do horrible. Heck, any day in which you don’t poop your pants counts as a good day, right?

2011 Chicago Marathon Official Splits

2011 Chicago Marathon Official Splits

Completely Exhausted at the End of the Marathon

Completely Exhausted at the End of the Marathon

After the race I decided that I should finally look up what causes these hiccups. It turns out that it could be a lot of different things. It could be related to a mild case of ulcerative colitis (it’s okay, insert a poop joke here). However, I haven’t tracked when that’s been giving me problems around the time of marathons. It could be something related to the mixture of the Gatorade Endurance Formula used in marathons. It might just take a while longer for it to hit me. It could be related to me drinking on the run. It’s all very hard to say. Clearly this is something that I should work on debugging more in future runs.

Despite all the bad stuff that happened in the race, I was still able to crack open a smile at the end of the race. It was a wonderfully well organized race, especially given the size. Quite simply it was the most well managed race I have run in. Despite the crowds, it seemed like you should easily be able to PR on the course. However, that was not in the cards for me. Now it’s time to try and figure out what has made me hiccup so badly during four of my seven marathons.

Me and My Wife at the End of the 2011 Chicago Marathon

Me and My Wife at the End of the 2011 Chicago Marathon


Keep Running.

16
Oct
11

Race Report: 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon (Part 2)

In Part 1 of my writeup I covered a little bit of getting to Chicago and the Marathon expo. This section covers getting to the marathon and the first 16 or so miles before everything went terribly, terribly wrong.

I woke up about a rather restless night, quickly donned my clothes and made my way to the El for the ride to the Jackson stop on the blue line. I always try to arrive well in advance of the starting time for a race as the lines of porta-potties can be atrocious. The first thing I noticed when I arrived was “Hey, it’s still dark out!”. The second thing I noticed was that you can’t see inside of a porta-potty when it is dark outside.

The marathon started and finished in Grant Park, across from Lake Michigan. This had the nice advantage of allowing me to see something that I had only seen once in the six years I lived in Chicago, sunrise over the lake. It’s a beautiful sight.

Sunrise over Lake Michigan before the start of the Chicago Marathon

Sunrise over Lake Michigan before the start of the Chicago Marathon

Gear check was some of the best that I’ve ever seen at a race. Very well organized system with stalls for each grouping of numbers and enough attendants so there wasn’t a huge line to check your gear (or pick it up after the race). I also felt confident that if it were raining on the day of the marathon my gear would stay dry. Fortunately, the forecast didn’t call for any rain, but it did call for temperatures in the high-70’s or lower 80’s by the end of the race.

By virtue of me running a pretty face half marathon for the Brooklyn Half in May 2011, I scored a spot in seeded corral. I felt like a total poseur being up that far. I knew I was undertrained for this race. I was relieved when I looked around and saw that contrary to the people I saw headed for corral A, most of the people in corral C looked really similar to me. Of course, most of them had probably trained better than me too.

I'm Ready to Go at the Start of the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon

I'm Ready to Go at the Start of the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon

I’m pretty certain that Chicago has one of the most beautiful starts to any marathon. Yes, Big Sur is beautiful, but the start is kinda in the woods away from the jagged shoreline. Twin Cities and it’s fall colors are beautiful, but you start next to the Metrodome. If you’re like me, when you run NYC you start looking into the lower level of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and hope that people on top don’t pee on you. You start Chicago looking at some of the beautiful skyscrapers that Chicago is known for. From my experiences, there is no comparison.

The Chicago Marathon Starting Line -- Look at those Beautiful Buildings

The Chicago Marathon Starting Line -- Look at those Beautiful Buildings

The course for Chicago begins by heading north from Grant Park into the River North area, back south into the loop, and then up toward Addison. It’s a real treat to run right through the loop as that other US based mega race member of the World Marathon Majors thinks it’s more important to run through the Bronx than down Broadway. I was keeping a pretty constant pace throughout this part of the race even though I wasn’t running with a pace team. My goal was to do 8:30-8:40 miles, which was true for the most part, although there were a few times that I dipped well into the 7’s. None the less I was feeling good

The fan support on the course was really great — no doubt augmented by the CTA running extra trains to transport marathon fans around. My wife managed to see me downtown twice and tried to see me up by Addison but must have missed me. There were also some great bands and sideshows to see — such as the Lady Gaga impersonators from FrontRunners (can I digress and say how awesome FrontRunners is? They’re a great club for running better always are a hugely positive influence regardless of whether you’re a member or not.). Aid and medical stations were simply amazing. They were huge with ample amounts of water and gatorade and probably half the doctors from the Chicagoland area. I was trying to be all manly and drink on the run. This probably was not a great idea.

By mile 11 you’re thundering back into downtown and across the Chicago River a few more times and out to UIC and the United Center. This is clearly the section of the course where the organizers said “Crap, this thing needs to be 26.2 miles, lets throw and out and back somewhere!” Rather than adding something interesting to the course such as a extending it down to Hyde Park, they have us run by the empty parking lots of the United Center. There were sections where the course was completely quiet. No fans. No support in those areas. No runners talking. It was also at one of the most difficult parts of the race, the first half of the second half of the race (around mile 15).

I finally managed to see my wife around mile 16, right by the UIC-Halsted stop on the Blue Line. I wasn’t even looking for her there because we hadn’t planned on meeting there, but I wasn’t complaining. She was a very welcome face to see at that point of the race. I was so excited that apparently I did Jazz hands, that’s something that Ali on the Run would do. I know nothing about dance.

Mile 16 and Going Strong! Wait, am I Doing Jazz Hands?

Mile 16 and Going Strong! Wait, am I Doing Jazz Hands?

Unfortunately, this was kinda the high point of the race. Stuff basically fell off a cliff after this point. A very sharp, very depressing cliff. But I’ll talk about that part 3 of my Chicago Marathon race report.

16
Oct
11

Race Report: 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon (Part 1)

It was the best of races,
It was the worst of races,
It was a day of wisdom,
It was a day of foolishness,
It was the marathon of belief,
It was the marathon of incredulity

I don’t think that I’ve had a more bipolar race than the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. How could things go so wonderful and later go so horrible? All within a span of about 45 minutes. With that in mind, this writeup will be two parts. In part 1, which is this part, I’ll cover the events pre-race such as the expo, part 2 covers everything up to about mile 16 of the race. Part 3 covers what happened that caused it to go terribly wrong and what I’m going to do about it.

First, this was my second attempt at running Chicago. Last year, 2010, I registered for the race and partially trained for it before giving up because of my hip injury. That utter failure taught me a valuable lesson, seek medical help earlier rather than later. This year when registration rolled around I was determined not to miss the race again. The timing was near perfect, I’d have 16 solid weeks of training since running Grandma’s Marathon in June. Unfortunately, a miserable August combined with travel (as detailed in my litany of excuses) meant that I was didn’t think was going to tear this up. Nonetheless, I had a plane ticket. My wife had a plane ticket. We had paid for a hotel room. I was going to run this race.

Now, before I get too far, let me say I’m very biased in favor of Chicago. I spent six wonderful years living on the south side of Chicago and I still think it’s one of the greatest cities on earth. Yes, I like it more than New York. So, in the following numerous upcoming locations where I describe how the Chicago Marathon is better than the New York City Marathon, please keep in mind that I’m biased. Also, remember the #1 scent of New York is urine. Okay, enough potty humor until part 2 of writeup.

Getting to the expo was a breeze. Hopped on the El down to the Roosevelt stop and wandered over to a well signed bus stop. A helpful volunteer told us we had 10 minutes until the next bus. This resulted in the second time in my life that I’ve ever walked inside of a Starbucks. I don’t drink coffee, but we did get a muffin. Back outside on the patio of Starbucks the volunteer chatted with various runners about the course and then a greyhound bus approached to shuttle us to McCormick place, which, just a stupidly as the Javitz Center in New York, lacks an real public transit. Fortunately, Chicago provides shuttle bus service rather than making you walk from the nearest train station the day before the race. Points for Chicago! Yay!

Me at the entrance to the Chicago Marathon Expo

Me at the entrance to the Chicago Marathon Expo

Arrived in McCormick Place and quickly found 45 booths handing out bibs. This actually made it really quick. Then the down side, you had to wander through the expo to get your T-Shirt, which was on the other side. Ughh. I love the idea of a marathon expo, but I’m a pretty crappy consumer. Heck, even products I like an support, like Injinji Toe Socks, I’ll look at during the expo and then buy online later. Yeah, I’m a bad marathoner. I missed many of the other interesting things in the expo. Apparently they had a wall with everyone’s name printed on it. I didn’t find my name — mostly because I didn’t know this wall existed until I read a writeup mentioning the wall from another marathoner.

What I thought was kinda interesting about the marathon expo is that there was one booth specifically protesting Bank of America. This wasn’t part of the Occupy Wall Street movements. Instead it was from the Rainforest Action Network and was distributing protest materials about Bank of America’s financial support for a very dirty and deadly coal fired plant on the marathon route. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall on Thursday morning when the expo opened and the title sponsor of the marathon saw the booth.

Rest of the day was non-eventful. Planned on going to Maggiano’s with my wife and a friend from college, but the wait was atrocious. Checked out a nice little Irish pub across the street where I was able to stock up on pasta and a little bit of beer the night before the race. Hopped on the El back out to our hotel and I was in bed by 10pm. Of course, I never sleep well the night before a marathon.

Next up, part 2: the first 16 miles.




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Marathon Times

2011 NYC Marathon3:57:45
2011 Hartford Marathon3:58:17
2011 Chicago Marathon4:20:16
2011 Grandma's Marathon4:07:43
2010 Big Sur International Marathon4:22:49
2009 NYC Marathon4:37:05
2009 Twin Cities Marathon4:43:28
2009 Pittsburgh Marathon4:14:38
2008 Erie Marathon5:11:40

Upcoming Races

  • Nov 6 - New York City Marathon, New York, NY
For previous races, check out my Race Log